Monday, December 29, 2008

10 K race test

In an effort to gauge my current level of fitness, and to be honest partly out of morbid curiosity, I ran a 10 K "race" yesterday. The results were pretty ugly all things considered, but pretty much along the lines of what I expected. I did the loop of lakes Banook and Mic Mac, cutting through Shubie Park and along the trail and boardwalk - a semi-regular part of my long runs. Unfortunately it's quite a hilly run and in spots was quite slippery, and so not an entirely accurate gauge, but I shall rerun it again every few months and see where my times go.

For the record, the 10K portion of the run was completed in 52:34 and my average heart rate was an astounding 174 bpm.

I'm still assessing whether or not to run the full marathon at the Bluenose in May. This little test it part of the assessment.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Missing a run isn't everything... right?

I had an absolute crap sleep Saturday night and missed my Sunday long run. I had thrown around the idea of running long this morning, but I slept in until 5:30 and only had time for a short 6 km. It was a great run, but I still want to get a long run in, so if all goes well tomorrow and T's schedule allows, I'll run late tomorrow.

I've been running 3 km tempos with a 1.5 km warmup / warmdown on either end. I can't remember exactly when or how I determined my tempo paces, but the Garmin had 5:00 - 5:10 set for the goal pace, and that seems to be working out well. I think that I'll start running two of these a week and will increase the mileage a little - maybe 4 km on the main part of the run.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Avoiding the trap

My search for running goals hasn't really begun yet. I expect to just try to maintain consistent training for a couple of months, slowly building my mileage up. I guess for now, running in and of itself, without expectation, has to be good enough.

The question for now relates to how many runs a week to try and fit in. As I've been sort of idling my way back in, I'm working on only two or three right now, but that's because I'm trying to fit in two weightlifting sessions and a couple of rows. To get any more runs in, I'm obviously going to have to double up a bit - maybe row on weightlifting days. I seem to have hazy recollections of being most comfortable with four runs a week.

Working out and running early in the morning seems to work pretty well for me so far. It's been almost three weeks now that I've awoken to the 5:30 alarm and headed out the door to the gym or to run. The gym is pretty easy in the morning, there are lots of people and the social atmosphere is encouraging. The hard part is getting out to run - the roads are generally pretty empty, perfect for running, but I find I have to work to keep motivated in the dark. My MP3 player/FM radio helps on these runs - CBC first thing in the morning is a piece of normality for me, but it's still hard. Since my runs have been relatively short so far - 6 or 7 km max, they don't take very long, but if I decide to really work a program and have to start running intervals or 10 km or more on these runs, the time will dramatically increase.

Am I going to have to get up still earlier?

I am doing all of this other stuff to avoid the running trap. I fell into it three years ago when I blew my Achilles' tendon on a 30 km training run - running without proper cross-training is a recipe for injury and mental breakdown.

The injury bit is straightforward; the triathletes have it exactly right. (Although I still think they are mental.) After getting hurt a couple of years ago, I was forced to stop running for a couple of months. I found myself completely unprepared for the emotional effects of the immediate cessation of physical activity. Unsurprisingly, I gained weight, but what I wasn't ready for was how screwed up my sleep schedule got. I guess that I had been building up quite a lot of energy capacity from running, and with nothing to expend it on, I began having trouble getting to sleep at night, which lead to grouchy days and the spiral to total bastard was very quick indeed.

The trap.

Avoiding the trap is so easy that I was a complete idiot for falling in it in the first place. Cross-train. Cross-training with intent not only lets me balance muscle and connective tissue development, but it also gives me a physical outlet that might be able to take the place of running when an injury prevents it. It also gives me other chances to build up core muscle strength that can prevent injury to my back, which is always (ahem) at the back of my mind. Wonky back days trumps everything, so keeping it strong is job #1. I can row til I drop even when my knee feels a bit off. I can lift weights anytime, I just have to be careful with the injury.

The key with cross-training for me seems to be to not consider it secondary to the running, to put it on an equal footing. That doesn't necessarily mean to have as many cross-training days as running days, there just aren't enough in the week. It just means keeping it important, log it just as I do my runs, and above all, not to feel ripped off if I get hurt and can't run - make up for it with additional cross-training sessions as recuperation allows.

At some point in time, I promise to start swimming. I have promised this for a while now, but I will, I just don't know when.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Semi-public embarrassment or the threat thereof

That's the reason for the blog, ultimately - partly as a "training" log, partly to clarify my own goals, and partly to act as motivation through the threat of embarrassment when I slack off.

I'm like many, my running goes pretty well when I'm actually doing it; I motivate quite easily to get out the door at 5:30 AM on cold winter mornings when I'm into it, but when my motivation flags, when my roll stops, it can stop hard. For instance, I ran the Bluenose marathon in 2007 and then almost immediately after went to sea for three months on board a vessel with no training facilities. On returning home, I couldn't get started up again. In the following year and a half, I started training twice, and only now, fully twenty months later, can I really say I'm back at it. When I look back, even in the training leading up to the Bluenose, my first marathon, I wasn't really into it like I want to be.

The fact is, I want to obsess about running. I want to think about my runs when I'm doing them and when I'm not. I want to look at my Garmin records over and over and compare my heart rates from one run to the next. I want to log my runs in Google Earth. I want to run when the weather is great and when it sucks. I want to read books about running and read magazine reviews about books about running. I want to be one of those idiots you see in the Halifax sleet in January on the side of the road, grimacing and splashing. I'm hoping this space will help me obsess.

That said, my goals for now are just to continue training through the winter to keep my fitness and spirits up. Running makes me a better partner, father, person, and those really are the improvements I'm looking for.